Thoughts on Brian's post was Re: Irish Stalinists

Gary Maclennan g.maclennan at
Tue Nov 7 20:12:17 MST 2000

There are a couple of things here that I won't let past even at the expense
of raising the temperature of this list.  We are in danger of course of
going over old ground.  However I feel I must say that it is simply wrong
to say that no one supported the 1950 cross border campaign. There was a
great deal of passive support among the Northern Irish Catholics.  I still
recall the excitement in my home town of Omagh after the raid on the local
barracks.  There was a palpable sense of pride that a blow had been struck.

If tomorrow Saddam Hussein was to fire rockets into Israel,  you would get
a very comparable reaction from Palestinians.

Now the IRA mistakenly did not involve Belfast republicans in this campaign
and that led to its early demise.  But to describe it as "individual
terrorism" is absolutely wrong,  and even worse.  It is to use the rhetoric
of the enemy.

Now the next sentence of the Republican movement left is also absolutely
wrong, unless you happen to think of adapting social democratic reformism
is somehow more left wing than revolutionary nationalist attacks on
imperialism.  Frankly I do not but then I am not an Irish Stalinist nor an
apologist for Stalinism in any form.

Finally how strong was the role of confessional politics in the Provisional
IRA?  But this is always the old Stalinist slander.  Supposedly the
Provisionals were catholic bigots while the Stalinists were
non-sectarian.  Of course they forgot to point out that the Stalinists and
the Catholic church were very much in the same boat and both fervently
worked for a continuation of British imperialism

The truth is that however that confessional politics were never very strong
in the Provisional IRA.  How could it be when the Catholic Church rushed to
join the Irish Stalinists in condemning the IRA?  Irish Provisional
republicans led the local challenges to the authority of the priests.  We
had Republicans standing up and walking out of mass in response to
something the local priest said in defence of British Imperialism.  Key
Pro-British priests had to be moved because of local republican
opposition.  The case of Fr. Faul is very much to the fore here.  His
pro-British politics are currently being opposed by local
republicans.  Where is the confessionalism here?  The real bastion of Irish
confessional politics is the moderate Social Democratic Labour Party led by
John Hume.

I could say similar things about Brian's allegations about the role of
conservative Irish politicians in the formation of the IRA.  This is the
sort of shit that British Intelligence operatives have been putting out for
years. Again the truth is otherwise.  The role of Blaney and Haughey was
minimal in the extreme in the events that led to the formation of the
Provisionals.  The catalyst was an armed response from the Protestant
Loyalist state to the civil Liberties movement.  When the State begins to
shoot that tends to separate Left liberals and social democrats from

Finally Philip has been accused of presenting distorted politics.  I can
only press upon the list, as someone who was born and grew up in N.
Ireland, that I have enormous respect for what he says and also for the
commitment he made to the Irish revolution over a number of years.

Brian signs his posts "mise le meas'.  this means "I with respect" in the
Irish language.  this is exactly what I have for Philip while I have only
scorn for Irish Stalinism, even in its neo-Trotskyist guise.



>I think you are offering a somewhat distorted picture of what happened. The
>"Republican Movement" shifted to the left in the 1960s after the abject
>failure of the abortive Border Campaign. The CPs certainly played some role
>in influencing its political direction, but the primary stimulus was a
>realisation that almost nobody supported their 1950s "armed struggle"
>(otherwise known as a strategy of individual terrorism). This in turn led
>to the IRA and their supporting milieu putting their weight behind the
>Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement, as we all know, changed
>everything in the North.
>The Provo\Official split was not the simple result of CPI influence over
>the Republican leadership. It was a rather more complex affair. Most of the
>proto-Provos felt that the IRA had failed to defend Catholic ghettos from
>Orange mobs, during the violent backlash to the Civil Rights campaign. In
>addition many of the Provisionals, many of them devoutly religious, were
>rejecting class based politics for what can only be termed creed politics.
>A third strand is the interference of right wing Southern politicians, who
>wanted to help Northern Catholics and simultaneously to rid the IRA of
>uncomfortable socialist attitudes.
>At the time of the split both factions had uncompromisingly anti-British
>attitudes. Both were waging campaigns of bombings and assassinations. The
>Officials, however, regarded the Provos as little more than a bunch of
>sectarian killers. In that they were wrong. The Provisionals were and
>remain a much more complex beast than that. But that their fundamental long
>term strategy has been to unite all Catholics regardless of class and to,
>at best, ignore the Protestant working class cannot be doubted.
>As for the Officials evolution into the present day Workers Party, it was a
>slow and prolonged process. You are, of course, entirely correct to say
>that they ended up with a determinedly reactionary attitude to the North
>but such a course of events was not predetermined by their shift towards
>class politics in the 1960s.
> > While Trotsky himself said that 'British socialists who refuse to support
> > the Irish struggle with all their might should be branded with infamy if
> > not with a bullet' (it's near enough an exact quote), British Trotskyists
> > often exhibited degrees of ambivalence towards the Irish sturggle that
> > not entirely dissimilar to most of the CP.
>It would of course be ridiculous to suggest that the Irish situation was
>not identical in 1995 to the Irish situation in 1915, right?
>Is mise le meas,
>Brian Cahill

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